Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Wednesday 26 April 2000

Chateau Belewbeloid, Nashville.

A new book, chosen from the stash of volumes acquired on the last visit here, to begin a new period of working with the Crimson Beast: Michael Chanan's "From Handel To Hendrix: The Composer In The Public Sphere" (Verso, 1999).

Also, I've been reading the applications for the Level One in New Jersey, and sent a response to Curt Golden. This course in September will be the largest Level One to date.

Then to an e-flurry. Sid Smith's diary mentions the level of interest expressed by former Crims & others in contributing to Sid's "The Anoraks' Guide To King Crimson". Sid appears to doubt the value of his forthcoming book. I don't. There is a place for this approach on the shelf between serious tomes applying the criteria of academic discourse to a period of activity which was, for much of the time, very dopey. Serious, but not solemn, subjects benefit from the unfixing tendencies of levity, humour & a well-directed & impartial Geordie wit.

Something about Crimson touched Sid. He still doesn't quite know what it was, hasn't quite managed to articulate it, but his (in my view genuine) experience is continuing, waiting for him to interrogate it.

Sid speculates that the interest expressed by former members may have to do with them receiving, at last, acknowledgement and recognition for their contributions (my words). Hooray! to this from me. The difficulty remains that in group activity, it's almost impossible to separate out the specific examples of contribution by a group's members. Some contribute by what they know, others by what they do, and others by who they are. Sometimes the contribution is doing nothing. Within a bona fide group, the group acts through each member, while they continue to maintain their individuality. Individuality is a necessary element & requirement for membership of a group; otherwise the "group spirit" is constrained when seeking to act through an individual.

The difficulty in assessing individual contributions is that any genuine contribution is made without a demand for acknowledgement. Yet, if there is no recognition or acknowledgement of an individual's contribution, the creative process within the group doesn't properly complete; which means that the group process doesn't properly continue. How to reconcile this one? We can't understand a creative activity by explaining it in terms of basement logic or reasoning. We can only describe what is going on when we are ourselves engaged in a creative action, which puts us on the same floor as the action. So, a list of contributions won't accurately apportion credit or explain the working of Crimson. Nevertheless, it may provide some data for impartial commentary on the functioning of the band.

For myself, I don't want the credit for the work of others. This is not altruism, the operation of a higher nature, or the desire to avoid bad karma: I don't want the blame for the dippy decisions, opinions & behaviour of the others either. Historically, commentary has exaggerated my role in both. I also note that, to date, no-one has accurately described the nature of the role which I do play in Crimson. This is impressive, disturbing & disappointing given the proliferation of commentary on Crimson.

But once credit has been allocated, functions revealed, decisions discovered, we may have a better idea of how & why Crimson is & was. So, steam forward Sidney Smith and good luck.

Sometimes, when we are working in a group, we discover for ourselves that we are the other members of the group; that they are ourself; that the group acts through the individuals; that the individuals are the group; that there is no contradiction in any of these statements. But when we awake on a lower floor, the straighforwardness & simplicity of this realisation is inexplicable. The action of a "real" group may easily be experienced; to explain it is problematic. Unless someone else has that experience, how can one present a reasoned "proof" of the experience? The proof is in sharing the experience. The question then becomes, if you would like the "answer" to the "question", are you prepared to pay the price?

This is often easier when we are younger. We don't know enough to get in the way of discovering what is closer to us than our nose: we aren't involved in the endless discussions of basement enquiry (cf Elephant Talk and, to a lesser degree, the Guestbook). Imagine writing a dissertation on the chemical properties of the ingredients of the air to establish a reasonable basis for proving that we are breathing.

So, what is breathing? What qualities of breathing are available to us? The qualities of breathing are the same qualities as in listening. We all breathe the same air, whether we wish to or not. We all listen through the same medium of air, whether we wish to or not. Perhaps we may accept (as an idea, anyway) that the air we breathe in a sense "changes" by entering and leaving us; that the "quality" of the air is affected by the quality of our breathing & the intensity of our physical presence. I have never seen the idea expressed that the quality of the air is also changed by how we listen through it. The air we breathe at a particular performance is unique. The audience is breathing the same air as the musicians, taking into themselves the medium which carries the music; not only through the nose, also the skin and the ears.

So, clearly the audience are in some sense "performers" with their own contribution to make. I do know that music is changed by the quality of listening made available to it. If music isn't "heard", it's not recognised; and if it's not recognised, it isn't quite acknowledged.

When music downloads, it requires musicians & listeners to bring it from the world of qualities into our own world. How to speak of the "world" from which music originates? Surely this is only possible if we are standing in that world and speaking of what is going on around us? But this "world" is also closer to us than our breath, not something far away & hidden from our experiencing. A piece of music is a specific prismatic concentration of a quality: the unconditioned accepts a form of limitation so that it may enter into a process of becoming. Just like us.

We recognise family. Some family is of the blood; some family is of the essence. Music is no different. A particular musical "family" is a current which includes the music, and the players & audience it calls upon (if they are listening & hearing). Sid Smith is part of the Crimson family. He knows this, because he has that experience. So far, I haven't seen Sid articulate the connection which I recognise. Perhaps the former members of Crim also recognise that, in some way, we are all part of the Crimson family - including Sid. So perhaps Sid needn't be surprised that former Crims are talking to him.

Things are not always as they seem to be; and then, sometimes they are exactly as they seem to be.